Found your dream apartment? Congratulations! Now it's time to find your dream roommate. At Apartment List we know roommates can make or break your living situation so we've put together our best advice to help with your search.
1) Make sure you have a similar budget
Having a roommate is a great way to save some big bucks, but before you sign a lease make sure you and your roommate having similar price expectations. If you're looking to rent a cheaper apartment to save money for a downpayment (or your next trip to Mexico), you shouldn't move in with your BFF who wants to live in a penthouse and spend her days eating caviar while overlooking the Chicago skyline. Before signing a lease make sure your roommate has the savings and income to pay for your rent and deposit. You don't want to be stuck paying the full rent if your roommate bails!
And remember, rent is just part of your apartment budget. Don't forget to discuss other costs such as utilities and furniture with your roommate. If you and your future roomie are going to split the costs of furnishing your apartment, you'll need to agree on a realistic budget and determine where you'll be shopping - whether that's Pottery Barn, Ikea or Goodwill.
2) Find a roommate that meets your cleanliness standards
Cleanliness is one scenario where opposites definitely don't attract! We've all had that messy roommate, and it sucks. They leave the sink full of dishes, spilled makeup on the bathroom counters, and clothes all over the living room. If you are someone who prefers a clean, neat apartment avoid a messy roommate (unless you're willing to devote yourself to cleaning for two).
If you are planning on living with multiple roommates discussing cleanliness is even more important. More roommates equal more potential for mess and more opportunities to avoid chores. I once lived in a house with 22 people, and the mess seemed to grow exponentially with each additional roommate.
If you're the messy roommate, I'd recommend finding another messy roommate so you don't have a neat roommate constantly nagging you - and maybe consider adding a cleaning service to your budget.
3) Discuss schedules and lifestyle before signing the lease
If you love to spend weeknights listening to acoustic music and reading a good book, don't move in with a roommate who likes to throw parties on Tuesdays. On the other hand, if you like to host parties and have friends over make sure that's something your future roommate is comfortable with.
Don't forget to ask your roommate if they are a morning or night person. If you're a morning person and a light sleeper, you probably don't want a roommate who has band practice every night. Make sure you have an agreement on appropriate noise levels before moving in together, especially if you plan to be asleep while they are awake (or vice versa).
It's also important to discuss how often you plan to have out of town visitors and overnight guests. If you live in Las Vegas and have friends visiting constantly to party all week, you need to have a roommate that's comfortable with that. And for those of you in relationships, make an agreement with your roommate about how often your significant other can stay over before signing the lease. If your boyfriend or girlfriend is going to be like a third roommate, you better make sure they get along with your real roomie.
4) Living with your BFF
Let's just start by saying it's not always the best idea to move in with your best friend. Yes, it can be super fun, but it also has the potential to destroy your friendship. Just because you love spending every weekend playing basketball or drinking Moscow Mules with your BFF does not mean you are compatible to live together.
It might get awkward if your friend asks you to move in, but if you don't think you'll be happy living together just say no. Don't risk losing your friendship over fights about chores or noise. If you have a friend you are compatible with, go ahead and move in together and enjoy getting to spend every day with your BFF.
Living with strangers might sound scary, but as long as you have a good understanding of each other's lifestyle it can be a great experience. It's even possible you'll gain a new friend, and once you've successfully lived together you've probably gained a lifelong friendship. As for how to find out if a stranger (or your friend) would make a good roommate, your best source of information is their previous roommate - don't be afraid to ask.
5) Split household responsibilities and costs
So you've found a roommate and decided to sign the lease, congrats! Before moving don't forget to discuss logistics of living together. How are you going to set up and pay for utilities? Are you going to buy your own cleaning supplies and food or will you share? How will chores be divided? Are you each bringing half the furniture or will you shop together? Answering these questions beforehand will prevent fights down the line, and ensure you have electricity and water when you move in (always a plus).
Sharing food can be a great way to save money and prevent food from going bad, but make sure the costs are split in a way you are both happy with. If you decide not to share, ask permission before taking your roommate's food. No one likes the roomie who's constantly mooching condiments or stealing all their cookies. If any problems arise as you live together, make sure to bring them up because a passive aggressive roommate is literally the worst.
I think it's safe to say we've all had some great roommates and some not so great ones, but what can I say, you live and you learn. If you put some time into finding a great roommate, you will be rewarded with a fantastic living situation. And don't forget to be a good roommate - it takes two to tango (and live together successfully).